As grieving families attended a mass cremation of Sikhs who died in the terror attack at Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib Gurdwara in Kabul, a Muslim family living in Qalai Zaman Khan, nearly an hour’s drive from the gurdwara, buried their only breadwinner, Mahram Ali Shaghasi (43).
On March 25, an Islamic State gunman had stormed into the gurdwara in Shor Bazar and shot dead at least 25 people, including 3-year-old Tanya Kaur.
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Mahram, who worked as a security guard cum help at the gurdwara, was the only Muslim killed in the attack. Speaking to The Indian Express over phone, Mahram’s family said he shared an inseparable bond with the Sikh community in Kabul, and was shot dead while trying to stop the gunman from entering the gurdwara.
“My father was a very honest and hardworking man. Even though he was not armed, he used to guard the premises 24×7. That day, as the gunman stormed inside, my father resisted and tried to stop him at the entrance. He was first shot in the shoulder. He fell down, but got up again to put up a fight, but was shot in the head,” said Abdul Wahid (23), Mahram’s younger son.
“An eyewitness met me at the hospital and told us that there were two people standing at the gate — my father and another Sikh man. When the gunman entered, he first shot the Sikh man. He then shot my father…,” added Abdul.
Mahram was aware that his job was risky. “But he loved doing it. He always respected the Sikh community and their faith. He used to say that all Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan are his brothers. He guarded the gurdwara and did other small chores. He used to say that Sikhs are very innocent, kind and nice people. In fact, he used to come home once a week only and stay at the gurdwara the rest of the week. More than his family, he spent time with Sikhs and served the gurdwara,” said Abdul.
Mahram’s bond with the Sikh community began years ago, when he first started working as a helper at the shop of one Manpal Singh. “Later, Manpal Singh migrated to India but he did not leave my father unemployed. He was in awe of my father’s honesty and hard work and offered him job at gurdwara, which he accepted. There are many Sikh shopkeepers here in Kabul who never pick fights with anyone. They are very polite and kind,” said Abdul.
Manpal, an Afghani Sikh who migrated from Kabul to Delhi, said, “He was a very honest and loyal man. I had a cardamom business in Kabul but then the situation there just kept deteriorating due to which I had to migrate to India. I still keep visiting Kabul. He used to work with me and then I could not have left him unemployed. Seeing his honesty and simplicity, we employed him at the gurdwara. He was a very nice human being, above everything..”
Mahram has left behind an aged father Qurban Ali, 75, wife Fariba Gul Rok, 40, and four children — Parwez, 22, Abdul, 23, Murwarid, 24, and Geeta, 19.
“My grandfather is too old to work now. My father was the only earning member in the family and was working hard so his children can study. He earning 12,000 Afghani a month from this job. My grandfather and mother have been shattered by his death. We do not know what lies ahead for us,” said Abdul, a computer science student.
“We are tired of this terror, bloodshed, killing of innocents…we are tired of everything. My only message to terrorists is that please stop killing innocent people…,” he added.
Mahram’s cousin Khairullah Ahmadi, “No local Afghan is against Hindus or Sikhs. They are a part of our country, our brothers. Everyone here likes and respects them a lot but terrorism has made life tough for each and everyone here. This needs to stop. He used to live in the gurdwara and read his namaaz there but he respected Sikhism. He always covered his head when inside.”
Inconsolable, Abdul said all he wants is that the world should remember the sacrifice made by his father and that he never differentiated among people on the basis of religion. “His job was a risky one, he always knew it but he did not step back. Till the very end of his life, he did his job with utmost dedication. Please let the entire world know that he too died, while doing his duty, while protecting the gurdwara and his Sikhs brothers.”
In an ode to Mahram, Wahid, in his local Dari language said, “Padar ma yak insan sadiq, raastkaar, zahmatkash wa wazifa shinaas bod wa maa ra hamisha ba dars khandan tashweq mikard (My father was an honest, hard-working and conscientious man, and he always encouraged us to study).”
Afghanistan terror attack: Two victims cremated in Ludhiana
The mortal remains of two Afghanistan-based Sikhs, killed in the IS-sponsored terror attack at a gurdwara in Kabul on March 25, were cremated at Daresi cremation ground in Ludhiana Tuesday.
On Monday, the bodies of three Sikh victims — Tian Singh, Jeewan Singh and Shankar Singh — had reached Delhi airport from Kabul as their families live in India. While Tian Singh was from Delhi, the other two’s families stayed in Ludhiana.
Both Jeewan Singh and Shankar Singh used to put up carts selling clothes in Kabul. They used to live there but visited India often to meet their families. Their families live in Chhawni Mohalla area of Ludhiana.
Kajal, sister-in-law of Shankar Singh (43), said that he is survived by wife Keemti Kaur and six children — three daughters and three sons. “He used to put up a cloth cart in Kabul. He was the only earning member in his family,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) announced relief of Rs 1 lakh each for both families.
Khajinder Singh, president, Afghan Hindu-Sikh Welfare Society, said, “Tian Singh from Delhi had got Indian citizenship and he got gone to Kabul for sewa at gurdwara. Shankar Singh and Jeewan Singh were still Afghanistan citizens and had Afghan passports. They were cloth sellers in Kabul. Their families had migrated to India but they were still living there. Both families are financially weak and need help.”
Congress MLA Rakesh Pandey also attended cremation. No relief was announced by the state government till the time of filing of this report.